cerebral palsy

The Perfect Way My Daughter Described Her Friend Who Uses a Wheelchair

This year, at our first night’s seder, my 11-year-old daughter declared her desire to find the afikomen. You see, she informed me, this would be her only chance.

Puzzled, I asked why. After all, we were heading to a friend’s home for the second night, and there would most certainly be an afikomen hunt there, as well.

(Back story: The friends we celebrate Passover with have one son, Josh, who has Cerebral Palsy. I have written about him and my children’s relationship with him before. Our families have been celebrating second seder together for the past few years.)

So I asked my daughter why she believed she would have only one chance to find the afikomen.

“Because,” she said, “Josh always finds it.”

Hmm… “Really?”

“Yes. He always finds it. Because he has an advantage. He has wheels.”

And just like that I was clearly reminded of the importance and power of teaching our children to be accepting of disabilities.

Here’s what my daughter didn’t say:

“It’s not fair; Josh always wins because he’s in a wheelchair.”

“Josh will win; he always wins because his dad pushes him.”

“Josh wins because he gets help.”

Nope. Josh wins because he has the advantage of wheels.

We must teach all of our children to see the world through this lens. We live in a society that is far too quick to see disadvantage. If we are not deliberate, we will miss out on discovering the unique qualities that each of us possesses. Josh, in his wheelchair, with Cerebral Palsy and complicated medical issues, who only speaks a few words that my children readily understand, has an advantage.

Yes, yes he does.


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Lisa FriedmanLisa Friedman is the Education Co-Director at Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, New Jersey; a position which includes overseeing an extensive special needs program within the Religious School designed to help students successfully learn Hebrew, learn about their Jewish heritage, and feel connected to their Jewish community. Lisa consults with Jewish organizations to develop inclusive practices and is a sought-after speaker on a wide variety of topics for professionals, lay leaders, teachers, parents, and teens. Lisa blogs on the issue of disabilities and inclusion at Jewish Special Needs Education: Removing the Stumbling Block and has also been featured in such publications as The NY Jewish Week, ReformJudaism.org, The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, and Think Inclusive.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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